Tenant Union, student senate work to push back leases

By Michael Logli

Less than two months after returning to campus in August, students rush to sign leases for the following year. Landlords, the Tenant Union and the Illinois Student Senate are working together to help students put off the early search for housing.

Leases for next year were available for signing beginning Oct. 1. But before 1996, leasing did not begin until January, said Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union.

“Signing leases 10 months in advance is so against the tenant’s best interests,” Patt said.

Patt added that searching for an apartment and roommates early in the school year can be a very stressful time for freshmen. They may not be sure of a location or if they will have the grades to continue as a sophomore. Because of this, students often try to find a way out of a binding lease, Patt said.

“I have no idea how many people will call us about this,” she said. “The moment you lift your hand from the page you are bound.”

Justin Randall, student senate president and senior in LAS, is working with Patt to write a proposal to the Champaign and Urbana city councils to move the leasing time to a date during second semester.

“It’s a lot of undue stress when people are adjusting to a new surrounding,” Randall said.

Randall said the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have both worked to create ordinances that push leasing dates back to more reasonable times. He plans to use their efforts to shape the University’s movement.

But, there are several factors that make this type of date change difficult to enact, said Miriam Booth, general manager of Bankier Apartments.

If one city decides to move back its date and another does not, it negatively affects property prices and the demand for apartments in that area. Therefore, both areas must agree simultaneously, Booth said.

Also, the councils may not have the power to regulate the signing date. Neither city has a committee focused on landlord-tenant relationships or leasing dates, Booth said.

“I don’t think it can be regulated,” Booth said. “I don’t know if the city council can regulate that.”

When Booth began her career as a realtor 27 years ago, the leasing date was Feb. 15. As the date moved earlier in the school year, Booth said Bankier experienced more and more students attempting to move out of leases because they were not going to stay at the University or they wanted different roommates. Booth said she thinks it would be a good plan if a compromise between landlords and the councils could be reached to move the date later.

“I would like it,” she said. “(Right now) It’s not exactly what you want to do.”

No date change has been decided yet and the process of appealing to both city councils is in preliminary stages. Discussions with landlords and realtors are in progress and the main effort will not begin until the second semester, Randall said.